Just a Little Run Around the World

Guess what this book is about?

Yes, Rosie Swale Pope really did run around the world, alone, on a continuous journey – including through Siberia, Alaska, and Greenland during the winters! It took her five years and 53 pairs of shoes, and when she was finished, she was 61 years old. She is my new hero.

On her 32,000 km run, she was “followed by wolves, knocked down by a bus, confronted by bears, chased by a naked man with a gun, and stranded with severe frostbite” – plus suffer broken ribs twice (and kept running), was stuck in an Arctic snowstorm for days, and had many more unique and even bizarre experiences. Hers is truly an amazing accomplishment.

Then, when I looked her up online, it looks like TODAY, like January 9th, 2017, she finished her run across the United States, from New York to San Francisco. If that’s right (and it’s not just some weird internet auto-date thing), then what a cool coincidence!

What I thought while reading this book (other than she’s amazing, of course):

Here again is the recurring evidence of the value of dividing big goals into small tasks. Some days, it’s run 20 km, some days it’s a struggle to go 100 meters. Yes, she had days like that. And she kept going, one day at a time, 100 meters at a time, until she accomplished her goal.

But even more impactful to me, I thought about how we limit ourselves. Our goals usually run to paths that are far more trodden than Rosie Swale Pope’s. The sad thing is, even if we want to run the road less travelled, the specific idea of what “our thing” is, may not even cross our minds.

Our first limitation is our thoughts.

I may not want to run around the world – so what do I want to do that I haven’t thought of yet, simply because my thinking is limited?

That question is for all of us.

What great things can we all individually accomplish if we allow our imaginations to fly to the “impossible” and then, 100 meters at a time, turn that dream into “possible” and then reality?

That’s worth some thought.

 

Three Years to “Sweep Off”

frodoI’ve been wanting to read Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert for ages, and yet it sat by my bedside table for far longer than I care to admit, mainly because I’d seen the movie and so it was hard to justify the time to read it as well. Thank you “42 books” goal for that justification!

I have now read it, and I must say that I absolutely adored it! Elizabeth Gilbert’s emotional honesty is inspiring, her journey is heartfelt, and third, the woman can WRITE!

Fourth, and best of all, some things that didn’t make a lot of sense in the movie finally made complete sense, including the romance at the end. In the movie, I wondered why they had to add a romance to a perfectly good adventure, as if someone thought that was the only way a “woman’s” movie could possibly end. However, the book explained it very well. The last challenge for Elizabeth to fully heal after a devastating divorce was to prove to herself that she could be in a new romantic relationship and not lose herself.

I know from experience that it’s very hard to write a good script from an existing book, especially when (as in the case of Eat Pray Love) so much of the story’s power is expressed through the protagonist’s thoughts. You can’t put a thought on a screen, and unfortunately, what you put on instead sometimes doesn’t carry the same emotional integrity. As an aside, if you’ve ever wondered at the process that a lot of script writers and a growing number of novelists use to create their stories, click here: The Simplest Tool for Fast, Fun Screenwriting.

What I thought about while reading this book:

I CAN DO THIS!

Yes, I can eat, pray, and love, but that’s not what I mean. It has been a long-time dream of mine to be a nomad, and as I vicariously enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey, I gathered an even stronger belief that I too can travel, learn, explore – when the time is right of course.

To repeat one of my favourite quotes:

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

~ J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings.

I look at this as a promise. Maybe that’s why I take my passport with me everywhere, even if I’m just going to the grocery store or to pick up the mail. One of these days, me and my “company of adventurers” will simply sweep away on our own mega-adventure. 🙂

When we do, I’ll keep an account of my travels here. I promise.

Change is Afoot…

Change is afoot with the issue at hand – and so I am turning my hand to Women’s Fiction, writing the first in what I hope becomes a beloved series to many amazing readers.

If you aren’t already signed up for my blog posts and you want the occasional update, sign up HERE, and receive not only my random thoughts in your inbox (lucky you – lol!) but also updates on my new literary venture.

The information you will receive (eventually):

–          The name of the book (believe it or not, I don’t know what it is yet)

–          The name of the series (I don’t know that either yet)

–          When the first book is available (er, sorry!)

–          What happens (okay, so I do know that, and it certainly won’t be in a blog post)

–          And much, much more (including freebies – and BTW, two of my juvenile ebooks are free right now: Winter of the Crystal Dances and Dark Fire)

What I can share now about the story:

–          It’s fun to write (and hopefully will be fun to read)

–          I love my characters (and I hope you will too)

–          I already have a publisher (yes, really!)

Check out Winding Path Books. I’ll be the second author they take on, with the first being the talented and delightful Ev Bishop! Great company to be in.

windingpathbooks_website_banner1

Crowd of Awesomeness

crowdI’m not complaining. Keep that in mind as you read this. It’s just I have too many ideas for books, movies, articles, and more, and choosing which to work on seems almost impossible some days.

Though it doesn’t seem like a curse, this is the bane of many writers: too many beautiful, compelling stories shouting out how engaging they are, how clever, how they’re the most fun, most striking, most worthy to be put into physical form. At this very moment, I have eight solid ideas in my head – five screenplays, a novella that may turn into a series, and two non-fiction books – and that doesn’t include the blog posts, short stories, poems, or memoir pieces that are malingering in my head or on my computer in various states of completion.

Out of sheer necessity, I’ve developed different ways to chose one story from my crowd of awesomeness to work on.

To begin with, I follow my passion and work on the project that calls the loudest. The problem with this can be that one project may be deafening on Day One, another on Day Two, another on Day Three – which means I have to practice crowd control. These are my crowd control tools:

Ask myself: which project is my top priority in relation to my long, or sometimes short, term goals? Short term trumps long term only if it’s a firm commitment, like a deadline. Why does long term usually have priority over short term? If a short term goal doesn’t support the long term goal, it shouldn’t be there to begin with.

Ask my writer support group what they think. The right writer support group is a profound resource. Hint for Success: If you don’t have one, get one. Then ask them.

Ask a writing mentor friend, someone who has been there and done that. If I don’t have a writing mentor friend in the discipline I need, I hire one, and talk to them about what project might have the most potential. And I really listen, even if it hurts. Note: it usually hurts.

Work on more than one project at a time. I can do two in a day, and sometimes three, with a couple hours on each project. Sometimes, to keep my brain from completely frying, I diversify the form of writing. For example, today I am writing a blog post, editing my current script, outlining my novella, and thinking about a non-fiction book. And though I’m not complaining about the writing related activities, I will complain about the bookkeeping I have to do. Ugh.

There is one more thing that I do, and not just as a last resort, simply because I like it so much. This activity solves all problems, not just this one: walking and talking… but that is an entirely new blog post, one I definitely want to write.

Someday.

When it starts shouting at me.

The Hazards of Personal Mind Games

Aztec RuinsThere once was a person who wanted to create stories, and so she did. Her first novel was purchased by a publisher who liked it so much they asked for more. Overjoyed, she wrote more novels for them that they also loved. Other publishers in other countries published her books as well and soon she quit her “day job” and became a full time writer. Happy day!

The publishers wanted new books quickly, so she wrote two or three books a year. She developed tricks to manipulate herself into doing the writing required and never missed a deadline for years… for a decade… and then longer.

But what she didn’t realize as she tricked and cajoled and rewarded herself through writing those books (stories that she loved, BTW) was that she was reacting to these manipulations of self the same way she would if anyone else was manipulating her – and because she, the creator, was being used and dominated and treated as less important than what she created, she eventually lost the desire to write.

Yet she couldn’t stop writing. This was now her job. She had contracts. Obligations. Fans.

To ease the pain of sitting down to write every day, and because it was her habit, she continued for a time to try coercing herself out of not liking to write, plus she took on a writing partner to do half the work and to keep her on track. But of course, nothing worked because she wasn’t addressing the core issue.

She decided to work on getting back the joy she once had for writing. It was difficult at first. She started small, like appreciating a certain combination of words she’d written, or enjoying a character in her mind. Baby steps. Next she stopped using the timer and the schedules. If she made the deadline, good. If not, she’d be close enough.

And so it went, step by step, dropping rule after rule, until one day she truly felt the joy again, and with the joy came the realization that the root of her angst was that she didn’t like to be manipulated, even by herself. Maybe even especially by herself. She understood that the creator is more important than the created. She was more important than her novels. Her uniqueness, her individuality and spark were what made it all happen, and that was what she needed to value and cherish and encourage. Only then would she reach her full potential as a creator.

And that, my friends, is why there haven’t been many blog posts lately. However, there is a NEW MOVIE IDEA! I’m sure the joy will return to the blogging again, just as it did this morning, with this little story.

Blessings to you on your own creative journey!

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: adventures in travel, career, personal growth, and more. If you are interested in following my haphazard posts, sign up here. Thank you!

Ciudad Perdida

Two days later, we hiked into Ciudad Perdida. The trip up to that point had been amazing: the cloud forest vegetation and flowers, the river, the indigenous dwellings, coca plants, and so much more.

The second day of hiking, we passed an elderly indigenous woman on the trail. She asked with hand signals for a hiking stick from a woman in our group, then with stick in hand, flipped a scorpion out from beside the rock at her feet, and proceeded to pound it to death.

Weird Catepillar

Weird Neon Catepillar

Another time, Quapak, our guide, told us that a snake had bitten a mule right there – and he pointed to the creek bank I was standing on. Two days later, when Quapak hiked back, the mule was still at the water’s edge, but it was dead. Needless to say, I crossed with exceptional care.

I was pretty happy to not see a snake close up, or a tarantula, but I was a bit disappointed that there were none to be seen from a distance. However, we did see this strange creature, which to me, looks like it could be related to a nudibranch if we’d found it underwater.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

 

Finally, on the morning of the third day, we crossed the Rio Buritaca, and climbed the 1,200 stone steps into Ciudad Perdida, gaining 400 meters (over 1,300 feet) in less than a kilometer.  It was a brisk climb but not as challenging as that first day when we climbed 640 meters (2,100 feet) beneath the blasting afternoon sun. Now, trees, some with hundreds of pounds of epiphytes attached, towered over us, vines hanging to the ground.

At the entrance to the city, we made an “offering” to show respect to the indigenous culture. I gently tossed a leaf into the sacred circle, and after a shared minute of silence, we walked into the city, which consisted of stone walled circles, filled with earth, the platform foundations of the houses that had once been there.

The city was abandoned about 400 years ago, though the local people continued to use the site for ceremonial purposes. Only the Mamo (the medicine man) and his family continue to live there, a short distance from the main circles.

Circles and stairs.

Circles and stairs.

These days, thirty more people also live nearby – soldiers. An observation post is on the mountain above the highest circle, and the soldiers keep watch, fully armed and ready to protect the visitors.

The stone circles became bigger as we moved higher on the ridge. As in countless civilizations around the world, the more successful families had the biggest circles and the best views. When the rest of the group stopped at the biggest circle, the one reserved for community gatherings, Brad and I kept climbing, up and up, from circle to circle.

Finally at the top, with only the military post higher, we looked back to see our group grown small below. Oropendolas built hanging nests in some tall palms nearby, their tail feathers flashing yellow in the sun. A pair of green parrots flew by, and then a red bird, and one so blue it looked startling against the blue of the sky. Beyond the stone city itself, the expanse of mountains and valley stretched to the horizon, the first mist of the day starting to gather among the trees.

I was standing in a lost city in South America, something that a year ago I would’ve thought was impossible and, considering our financial situation, irresponsible. Okay, so maybe that part hadn’t changed.

A beautiful view.

A beautiful view.

 

 

But the sight before me, the almost audible hum of energy in the air, the cry of the birds as they enacted their eternal dance, the vines swaying rhythmically to the hot breaths of wind, even a hiker’s laugh from down below – they combined to make that experience far more “real” than the cost, and in that moment, the cost became permanently irrelevant.

So I guess at the end of my life, I’ll die a few thousand dollars poorer, but that’s okay, because I have no doubt that I became much, much richer during these few hours at Ciudad Perdida. And that’s what I call good value.

Cuidad Perdida or Bust

Mules passing me on the chalk trail.

Mules passing me on the chalk trail.

I seriously thought I was going to collapse. Hills should not be this high or this steep. Three hours up? In 35 degree C  heat? With no shade? Come on!

The rest of our small group had shown us their backs a while ago. I’d already guzzled most of the water by the time the trail turned to white chalk dust, reflecting the heat back into my beet red face. Dust poofed into the air at every step, sticking to my sweat and coating my heaving lungs. And yet, there seemed no end. Up, up, eternally up.

Earlier that afternoon, we started the three day hike into Ciudad Perdida, a “lost city” in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. It had been a wonderful day. Meeting our hiking crew that morning and driving out to El Mamey, the town with such a bloody history it was nicknamed El Machete, where we would start our hike. The peaceful little village that greeted us did not live up to its past reputation, thankfully. We’d seen a massive iguana (or I think it was an iguana – it was a huge lizard in a tree, anyway) and the two snow capped peaks in the Sierra Nevadas, the two biggest mountains in the world at sea level. Incredibly impressive!

The hike itself started out easy-peasy, with gentle uphills and the occasional downhill. It was hot, that was for certain, but it was also shaded. The surroundings were beautiful and exotic, creeks bubbled past, strange fruit hung on trees, and the flowers… oh, the flowers! They’d drive me to poetry if I wasn’t careful.

Anyway, it all seemed amazing, even for a little while after the gentle slope turned into a not so gentle slope. Then the shade vanished, the sun got hotter (I swear), we hit the chalk dust – and the hike became a trudge.

Brad stayed with me, encouraging me and dutifully offering to carry my pack every once in a while. No way, I thought. I’d rather die, right here, right now. I may be suffering the ego-beating of being agonizingly slow, but to have someone carry my pack? No way, dude.

Just a random awesome flower in the jungle.

Just a random awesome flower in the jungle.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to carry it?”

“Yeah (gasp) I’m sure (gasp, stumble).”

Trudge, trudge, trudge.

“Here, let me take your hand.”

“Aw, you’re so (gasp) romantic.”

“Uh, yeah.”

Pulls me up the hill.

“You know, I can carry your pack for you.”

“Grrr.”

Waits one minute.

“Do you want me to?”

“I’m (gasp, pant) fine.”

“Okay, just let me know.”

Washing off the dust

Washing off the dust

Well, I must admit, the time did come, and then I had the added pleasure of seeing him carrying both our packs up the last of that massive hill without even breathing hard, as I panted and wheezed alongside.

But you know what? That was an amazing day. I loved the challenge and the exertion and the heat and the wiping of dusty sweat out of my eyes and the chalk breathing – and later that day, washing said dust/chalk off in the river while getting nibbled on by little vampire fish.

That hill was a profoundly satisfying experience. I may not have conquered it in style or even reach the top with my own pack on my own back, but conquer it I did. And that makes me happy.

 

Being an Inspiration

So, I did my part in Colombia to inspire people. I had a panic attack.

We’d been working a tough schedule. Mornings at PARE (a home devoted to helping people get off the streets) doing English lessons and teaching the residents skills that they could use to make money. It was loud, high energy, and fun – and for a major introvert like me, incredibly bombarding. Add to that, the facts that I’m deaf in one ear and can’t hear anything said on my right side, and that I knew so little Spanish that I was afraid to say the little I knew, because the response would then be in Spanish and I wouldn’t understand a word said – if I even heard it… and well, I was stressed. During the afternoons, we either planned or put on events at El Redil del Sur, a Christian church in Sabaneta, and I had to hear and talk to even more people. All day. Every day.

To add to the upheaval, I kept expecting those closest to me (the team I was working with) to be mad at me! I know it sound crazy, but really it’s not so crazy as it sounds, because in my day-to-day life, my special-needs daughter has rage issues and is almost constantly angry, usually at me. Her anger has dominated my daily life for years now. What I didn’t realize until I went to Colombia was how much it has affected me.

Brad and me, later that day in Botero Square, Medellin.

Brad and me, later that day in Botero Square, Medellin.

Still, no matter how much I expected it, no one got mad at me there. I don’t even think they felt frustrated with me, though they certainly had a right to be. Every time I noticed myself closing down emotionally, I’d remind myself that no one was mad, that they actually even seemed to like me. I’d be fine for an hour or a day or whatever, and then it would sneak it again, and I’d start feeling like a miserable burden to the people I worked with, like any moment they were going to snap and say something mean… Surely they’re mad at me now. Nope. Okay, but what about now? Sorry, no evidence of that. But what about now? And on and on it went.

And then Sunday came. The first church service that day was very spiritual and I felt so open… and then when the service was over, it’s like all my doubts and fears of the proceeding week zoomed into that open space, and wouldn’t leave. I held myself together only a few minutes into the second service, and then for the first time ever, I had a panic attack. To make things worse, I had to leave the service during a relatively quiet time and I was sitting at the front, so of course a lot of people noticed. Though the panic attack was as scary as I’ve heard they can be, it couldn’t stop my feelings of embarrassment or humiliation. If I could’ve chosen anywhere else to have my episode, I would’ve done it. But, well… it was simply not to be.

Brad stayed with me the whole time of the attack, and eventually, I could breathe normally again. Ages later, the tears stopped. I tried to slink out of church unnoticed, and mostly succeeded. Either that or most people were giving me the gift of averting their eyes (I suspect that’s the case, actually). The rest of the day was awesome and rejuvenating, and I was able to start up again on Monday morning with no outward residual effect. But underneath, I still felt ashamed of my meltdown. I blamed myself for being both weak and an idiot. That is, until the day we left Sabaneta.

We had a last lunch together, and were sharing our thoughts on the trip, on what was a success and what might be better next time, and right at the end, Jairo, the pastor at El Redil, said something that completely changed my outlook. He said that one of the things that really impacted the people in his church during our visit was how supportive and gentle Brad was with me when I was upset. Many people saw it, he said (and I thought, “oh great!”), and they were deeply moved by Brad’s kind and loving response.

And all of a sudden, I didn’t feel so bad about my meltdown. I had made a difference. I’d helped to inspire. I might have done it by crying and hyperventilating, but if I hadn’t done that, Brad wouldn’t have had a reason to show me such kindness in front of so many people. Yes, at the time it was terribly embarrassing and frightening, but to have that painful experience inspire others on the value of kindness and gentleness? I’m glad it happened. What more can I say?

Week Four

CHRISTMAS whos around your treeIt’s the day after Christmas, and what a week! So many cool things:

1. My parents spent Christmas with us. They could have stayed home and enjoyed the company of my sisters and their families, and probably would have preferred the comfort of their own house rather than our little home, and yet they decided to get into their car and drive 999 km each direction (according to Google Maps) to spend the week before Christmas until Boxing Day with us. I understand the sacrifice they made, though of course, they didn’t say a word. They only seemed glad to be here, despite the facts that it rained almost every day and I saved the Christmas prep until they got here, which meant lots of shopping. Poor Dad! However, their patience and kindness knew no bounds. I am incredibly grateful for them.

2. A fantastic time was had and an amazing dinner thoroughly enjoyed at Seth’s and Elaine’s home. The little kiddies are so bright and engaging in their celebration; it’s simply a joy to be around them.

3. Marina came back for Christmas, and it’s wonderful to have her here. Now that Christmas Day has passed, we are going to work on a script together. Exciting!

4. It was so nice to have a FaceTime chat with our Texas kids despite the fact they kept bragging about how hot it was there (29C). I guess that was payback for us bragging to our family in Calgary (who were at -20C) about how warm it was here. 🙂

5. So many gifts of love given and received, one being an incredibly generous gift of money from Bev and Lyle to use as we wish during our upcoming trip. I feel so grateful to pass my share of that gift on to PARE, a home for street kids in Columbia.

So the summary of all this: There is so much to appreciate. The biggest present I gave myself was to live in each moment as fully as possible, while being as aware as I was able. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses but even those moments were appreciated as growing opportunities (as per my Week Two post) and I found that as long as I followed my intuition, all seemed more or less well timed on when to enter a conversation, when to exit.

I was sad to see my parents leave this morning. I hope they know how much I appreciate them and acknowledge the sacrifice they made in coming here. I love them dearly, and I also admire and respect them. Their examples guide me as I work to grow into a more spiritually mature person.

Wishing peace, love, and light to you all!

Week Three

This story has been popping back into my head a lot this week. It’s a true story, something that happened to my daughter/friend, Charity, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, something she helped make happen because she followed her intuition.

Homeless ManA year or so ago, Charity was finishing her last year of University. She’s also a mom with two young children, and like most young families, she and her husband struggled financially. One day while driving home from campus, feeling particularly grateful for the good things in her life, she saw an elderly homeless man pushing his belongings down the street in a shopping cart, and felt compassion for him. She had $60 in her wallet, and she wanted to give it to him.

However, since he was on the other side of the street, one of the busiest streets in Victoria at that time of day, she knew she’d have to double back, find parking, and then approach him on foot. It took her some time to get turned around during rush hour, and by the time she got back to where he’d been, he was gone.  She drove slowly along, hoping he hadn’t gone far. He hadn’t – but he was once again on the wrong side of the street!

Another lengthy exercise in patience as she turned around in traffic, and ten minutes later she was heading back to where she’d last seen him. Again, he seemed to have vanished – until she saw him disappearing into a driveway to an apartment building.

Determined now to chase him down on foot, she found parking at a nearby bank, and ran toward the apartment building – and there he was, already pushing his cart down the street away from her. She says she must’ve looked like a crazy woman running after him, money fluttering in her fist.

Finally, she caught him! “This is for you,” she said, and pushed the $60 toward him.

He didn’t even seem surprised. “You keep that money,” he told her kindly.

“You don’t want it? But… but don’t you need it?”

The old man chuckled. “No one knows what they need, and those who think they do are just fooling themselves.” Then he patted her arm. “Pass your good deed onto another. And have a nice day.” He smiled as he turned back to his shopping cart, and walked away.

I’m not drawing any conclusions from this story or trying to pin down why it’s sticking in my mind this week. I’m just sitting with it, in gratitude, thinking of the power of Charity’s experience. There are so many awesome lessons in it: following intuition, showing compassion, thinking outside the box, being persistent, not being afraid to do something unusual and different, accepting the wisdom gifts of others, and on and on and on.

Interesting, multifaceted life learning – the best kind.